Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Personal Interest Definition:

An interest in either the subject matter or a relationship with the parties before a judicial body.

Related Terms: Conflict of Interest

In Barry v Historical Commission of Litchfield, Justice Ian McLachlan of the Appellate Court of Connecticut had before him the peculiar behavior of a commissioner who recused himself from a hearing ... so that he could testify as an expert before his very Commission, which then relied on his evidence to render judgment!

The Appellate Court of Connecticut would have none of that:

"Public policy requires that a member of a public board or commission refrain from placing himself or herself in a position in which personal interest may conflict with public duty.

"A personal interest has been defined as an interest in either the subject matter or a relationship with the parties before the zoning authority impairing the impartiality expected to characterize each member of the zoning authority.

"A personal interest can take the form of favoritism toward one party or hostility toward the opposing party; it is a personal bias or prejudice which imperils the open-mindedness and sense of fairness which a zoning official in our state is required to possess.

"The bright line rule is that decisions of zoning authorities should be overturned if they have not been reached fairly and with proper motives. Public office is a trust conferred by public authority for a public purpose. The status of each member of the commission forbids him from placing himself in a position where private interests conflict with his public duty. The law does not require proof that the interested commissioner actually acted wrongfully. The evil lies not in the wrongful act of the commissioner but rather in the creation of a situation tending to weaken public confidence and to undermine the sense of security of individual rights which the property owner must feel assured will always exist. The test is not whether the personal interest does conflict but whether it reasonably might conflict."

REFERENCES:

  • Barry v. Historic District Commission of the Borough of Litchfield, 950 A. 2d 1 (2008)
  • See also Duhaime, Lloyd, Labour Law (Unions and Collective Bargaining) - A Primer: "The system defers to expediency - even over justice - and with expediency comes arbitrary decisions. For example, ... in one case, I felt that the BC Labour Relations Board member might of had a private arbitration practice and possibly clients including the parties in my case. I was never able to find out although, with no credit to my rumblings, the BC LRB later and very quietly adopted a conflict of interest rule."

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